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Reconnecting with my roots | The Triangle

Reconnecting with my roots

Photograph by Sean Hyatt for The Triangle.

You may be wondering what Birthright is, and I’ll tell you. A once in a lifetime opportunity, Birthright is a 10-day trip to Israel offered to Jewish people ages 18-32 free of charge. My brother and I had been talking about going together since we first heard of Birthright, and so when I turned 18, we could not wait to finally go. Though I had been long looking forward to the trip, I was hesitant about going because I was afraid to be away from home for 10 days and stay in a country I have never been to before. However, I got past my worries, and by the end of the trip, I felt connected to the place where my family came from, and I learned to embrace my roots in ways I could apply to my real life.

Neither did I know what it meant to have a spiritual experience was before I went on this trip nor did I anticipate experiencing one on the trip. Although I identify as Jewish, I am not extremely religious; however, I do celebrate most of the Jewish holidays because they are meaningful to my family. After the trip, I feel much more connected to my Jewish identity, and I now look at celebrating the holidays in a more important light.

Before the trip, I felt like I was losing part of my Jewish identity because I didn’t explore the unknown of what my religion had to offer. It is important to me that I stay true to my roots since it is so easy to forget where you come from. I thought that as a Jew, I would have to go to services, know the symbolism of each holiday and know all of the prayers by heart. However, to practice a religion, one doesn’t need to conform to doing everything that people of that religion do. You should feel comfortable practicing the religion that you identify with and not feel forced to act a certain way.

Over the first couple of days of the trip, I noticed myself getting out of my comfort zone more and allowing myself to try new things. Although I knew facts about Israel, the opportunity to experience the country in person was a time in my life that I will never take for granted. I would say that if you have the chance to explore your roots, take the opportunity to do so when it is offered. It may be scary to picture yourself in a land that is unknown to you or unlike what you’re used to, but remain hopeful for the experience. Regardless of what ideas or perceptions you may have about your roots, it is beneficial to explore your past because it allows you to understand where you came from.